Nazare to Cascais via Peniche

Party aboard SY Apodis

It was a “for one night only” stop at each of the ports south of Bayona and on to Cascais, where I planned to take stock, buy provisions and make any last minute repairs.

Captain Hadley

In Nazare, I met (not for the first time) with the crew of a German registered yacht called SY Apodis, (for their blog see, the Swedish ARC rally vessel “Wind” (with six young male crew members), the previously mentioned ARC rally vessel “Summer Song” and an English / Brazilian couple aboard “Angel of Rio”, in an American built catamaran on route to Thailand.

The renown (among many cruisers) Captain Michael Hadley (pictured here) was on hand to keep us all in check and ensure we berthed where we should (hint hint Angel of Rio…), and all but the Swedes gathered for drinks aboard Apodis where despite quantum elevations in our blood alcohol levels, the mosquitoes had a field day feasting on us. Actually, the mosquitoes had a field day with everyone but me, which makes me wonder if I should have put on a cleaner shirt before wandering off to socialize. 🙂

A lazy afternoon

Upon checking out the following morning (which is just a case of returning the shower key), I paid most of the 8.03 Euro owing before setting off for Peniche.

Apparently I must pay the 3 cents outstanding upon my next visit, either that, or I am to supply one pretty Brazilian girl as collateral. Hmmm, there is only one currently in port, and I don’t think Nigel is willing to let her go, and it’s quite a lot to expect I’ll bring one all the way from Brazil for a measly 3 cents! 😉

Sleepy dogs in sleepy Peniche

The marina at Peniche is still officially closed but there was no problem picking up a buoy in the well sheltered harbour. Having traveled just 24 miles there was plenty of time to play afternoon tourist and it is during my perambulations with Nigel and Martha from “Angel of Rio” ( that I rediscovered the ‘Fellini movie’ atmosphere of this wonderful fishing village.

La Dolce Vita in Peniche Portugal

The final 44 NM leg to Cascais was uneventful, but what a sense of relief to have arrived at my Atalntic crossing jump-off point without too many mishaps!

The one pressing concern, dealing with a broken rope clutch handle, was generously resolved by the previous owner of Louisa (Yarmouth23 No.8). Responding to my message on the Yarmouth23 owners user group on Yahoo, Steve volunteered to check with his local chandler for a replacement and having found the required parts, promptly purchased and sent them via courier to Cascais.

I am extremely grateful Steve, as all my attempts to source Spinlock gear in Portugal met with dismal failure. Thanks to your help Eileen of Avoca will be more than ready for the next leg to Madeira.

More weather by SMS

Despite writing software for my own SMS weather service covering the East Atlantic, I still found myself checking sites such as windfinder and windguru whenever I was in port.

This was because I was sailing along the coast and the GRIB data used for my system produces data points for the high seas. Along the coast of Portugal and the Rias of Spain the data started at about 10 degrees longitude west. Good enough, but not perfect.

My solution was to make windguru coastal data available via sms.

Here is how to obtain it. Send a text message in the format:


to the usual Belgian number +32498327494

This will return approximately two days worth of wind and wave data as two separate text messages for the city of La Coruna. Due to the limits of text messaging, precipitation and cloud cover are not included.

The list of data points that can be used is currently as follows (I’ll add more soon):

  • gibraltar
  • tarifa
  • meca
  • rota
  • mazagon
  • canela
  • faro
  • vilamoura
  • praia
  • sagres
  • sines
  • cascais
  • peniche
  • nazare
  • figueira
  • aveiro
  • espinho
  • viana
  • patos
  • rostro
  • laxe
  • coruna
  • cedeira
  • navia
  • salinas
  • gijon
  • moris
  • vicente
  • santander
  • orinon
  • laida
  • sebastian
  • hondarribia
  • mimizan
  • soulac
  • diamond
  • houat
  • glenan
  • trepasses
  • brittany
  • sablons
  • vierge
  • dossen
  • rose
  • malo
  • jersey
  • guernsey
  • becquet
  • salcombe
  • exmouth
  • lyme
  • weymouth
  • swanage
  • compton

Obviously you replace coruna (in the example given above) with the data point from this list that interests you. Note that only lower case letters are used.

The data returned looks like this (but with many lines):

Su20 11.6 15 2.3 13

  • The first two letters are the day of the week
  • The next two digits are the time for the forecast (in 24hr format)
  • Wind speed in knots to 1 decimal point
  • Wind direction compass rose. 0 is north 4 is East 8 is South and 12 West
  • Wave height in meters to 1 decimal point
  • Wave direction compass rose

So for Sunday at 20:00 hours the wind will be 11.6kts from the NNW. Wave height will be 2.3m and the swell will be from the WNW.

Hope it helps!

If it does and you care to help me pay for the SMS bills, be sure to press the donate button on my homepage at

Peniche to Nazare in search of Pizza

Port of Peniche, Portugal, at sunrise

Having left Peniche just after dawn, I had plenty of time to reach Nazare in daylight, just 24 nautical miles to the north. I ambled along at my usual 4 to 5 knots as the skies grew overcast and a strange mist rolled out over an oddly smooth sea. The scene would not have been out of place in an episode of the twilight zone, but at the time I was busy enough hauling in catch after catch with my recently salvaged blue fishing lure, to pay much attention to the unusual weather.

Fish with headscarfs?

Photographed here are two fine specimens wrapped in paper towel soaked in seawater (to keep them fresh without refrigeration). But more were to come!

Nazare has an interesting geological feature (a deep sea trench) just offshore, which makes it a safe port of entry in even the worst conditions. I had little need for it on a flat sea, but it was comforting to know this nevertheless.

After making fast to the visitors pontoon early in the afternoon, I made my way to the marina office only to find it closed until 14:00. I entered the adjacent bar to wait and was stuck once more with the unnerving impression that I had somehow found my way into the twilight zone!

Traditional fishing boat on beach in Nazare

A roughhewn lot of fishermen sat quietly drinking coffee or beer as the television droned on unnoticed and gnats flew in lazy circles around the center of the room. I ordered what turned out to be a surprisingly good espresso and joined in with the unofficial Nazarean sport of gnat watching.

Drying fish on the beach

If fact, I enjoyed it so much, I decided to stay several days… but perhaps impending rain and the need to wait out the spring tides may also have played some small part in arriving at this decision. 🙂

Later, the surreal nature of this place was further emphasized, while exploring the port on foot. Stray dogs fought by a series of workshops, while angry fishermen interrupted with their net mending made ineffective attempts to separate them….. with of all things, oars! Well I guess it’s smarter than using your hands. 😉

Perhaps if I walked into town I might come across the path back to the real world?

Failing that, I’ll settle for a pizza.

Portuguese pizza

As luck would have it, after coming across a couple of elderly ladies drying fish on the beach, (I didn’t purchase any), and a fisherman making nets (now that’s something I’m more interested in and I did purchase one), I stumbled upon my Shangri La and sat down to a magnificent feast of pizza napoletana (or should that be pizza portuguese).

Nazare is now in my book of places well worth the visit, marked as an atypical place with charm… (Oh, and decent pizza to boot).

Peniche Portugal, not quite closed to cruisers

Saving the blue lure

Departing Cascais on the 12th of April, in light winds from the northwest, Eileen of Avoca motor-sailed the 44 odd miles to Peniche in just under ten hours. I did nothing…

Slow going, but I did have a slight delay when my new lure stuck to a fishing-pot float. There was no way I was going to sacrifice yet another lure so I captured the flag to reacquire it!

Traveling north, I have no option but to stay close to the coast (to make use of the complementary counter current), otherwise I’d stay clear of these incessant obstacles.

The port of Peniche was officially closed to visitors but apparently they make exceptions. In the limited space rafting up was the order of the day, but what better way to become acquainted with fellow yachtsmen.

Internet at the Java House

I met the very simpatico Jean Marie and Bernard on their way from France to the Mediterranean. After a couple of welcome drinks aboard their yacht (Ricard of course), we wandered into town for our daily dose of Internet weather forecasting. Not such an easy task, but we did manage to find a rather busy establishment called the Java House with free access.

Upon departure we agreed to take photos of each others yacht and sure enough I have already seen mine posted on their blog at:

So as to live up to my side of the bargain, here is theirs leaving the port of Peniche on Tuesday the 13th of April at about 8:20am.

French yacht heading South

Bon voyage mes amis!

I’ll send you the other photos by email.

Everyone has heard of “road rage” but did you know about “canal rage”?

Canal traffic

Canal traffic


I have found that locks can be stressful, especially when shared with cantankerous captains in commercial barges or leisure craft. Let me illustrate with one of my many misadventures…

Between Liege and Namur there are three relatively large locks. I was traveling this part of the Meuse with my mother as crew and Chester my Old English Sheepdog as mascot. We expected nothing less than the usual leisurely cruise and for the most part it was just that.

However, at the last lock of the day,  a large peniche had to take evasive action to prevent colliding with another vessel crewed by an elderly couple. This pair were oblivious to the danger as they set about arguing with each other and other boat crews over precedence.

I was following at what I thought to be a safe distance but as the peniche applied full throttle in an evasive manoeuvre, the resulting turbulence sent Eileen of Avoca swirling back out of the lock like a leaf in a whirlwind.

Only sheer luck (I’m claiming copious amounts of lockmanship here!) prevented me from slamming against the canal walls as Eileen was unceremoniously ejected from the lock.

Learning the ropes

Learning the ropes

Who would have thought cruising these canals could be classified as an adrenaline sport?

I’d  experienced the occasional bout of road rage (in no way related to my excellent driving skills), but I never thought “canal rage” had such a strong following in central Europe.

I witnessed several fine examples of verbal rampaging as yachts aggressively vied for position. I also found that the sport of pontoon hoarding has developed an ardent following at favourite stopovers.

It’s no wonder there were moments I could not wait to be free from the confines of the inland waterways. I was happy enough to arrive at a popular location if I could safely leave the boat at the end of a few days cruising, but until then I did my best to avoid the crush of yachtsmen.

It was best to push on unless forced to stop at a lock (closed for the night), or tie up by a quiet uncharted quay away from the traffic jams at guidebook stopovers.

Friends insist that I’m just plain antisocial. 🙂